$100m Oz smart grid to switch on by 2011: draft guidelines out - 01 Oct 2009

CANBERRA - Australia could have an electricity smart grid in place and operating by 2011, accord­ing to guidelines for the $100 million Smart Grid, Smart City project, issued yesterday by Environment Minister Peter Garrett.

It will probably include smart meters in homes and central dispatching systems for charging electric vehicles and batteries, as well as high-end infrastructure for elec­tricity distribution.

Garrett launched a new report on the project, Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era, as well as guidelines for its introduction, following three months of consultation and research.

The $100 million initiative was a surprise announce­ment in the May Federal Budget: a group organised by Paul Budde had sought only $50 million for a smaller-scale demonstration. It's had enthusiastic backing from Comms and Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy, who sees smart grids as major users of the National Broadband Network.

Applications for consortiums to deliver the smart grid project will be sought when final grant guidelines are released in late October. Business cases will be assessed by an independent panel and the successful consortium is expected to be announced in April 2010, with work to begin in June.

The project is expected to run until June 2013.

The guidelines do not specifiy where the project will be built, but say it should be located within a single distributor's network and include urban, suburban, and rural areas. Among other things it should include electric car support and deployment of smart meters to advanced customer side applications.

Garrett said smart grid applications could deliver significant benefits to the Australian economy, includ­ing a reduction of at least 3.5 megatonnes of carbon emissions annually. The Government also estimates households with smart meters could save up to 40 per cent on electricity bills.

He said smart grids would also help energy sup­pliers to better manage peak loads, reduce the risk of blackouts, improve reliability, and incorporate renew­able energies such as wind and solar into the grid.

Smart Grid Australia - an industry alliance of elec­tricity companies, ICT providers, vendors, renewable operators and the e-car industry - welcomed launch of the report and guidelines. Chairman Charles Popple said working groups within the association would meet this week to begin work on first steps in the project.

The report and guidelines are at www.environment.gov.au/smartgrid.

Source: Computer Daily News (published by David Frith Computer Services)

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